Market Access Support Services for Smallholder Rice Farmers

Market Access Support Services for Smallholder Rice Farmers

Ghana
Organization type: 
for profit
Budget: 
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

We believe in a technology-powered world where information drive food commodity sales for producers and buyers alike and improve the incomes and livelihood of people in the society. Our project thus seeks to implement an information technology powered business model to deliver the needed information to rice farmers and other stakeholders in the value chain. Smallholder farmers in many countries face major challenges. In an age of global markets, they are forced to enhance production, improve the quality of their yield, and access markets within short timeframes. Access, efficiency and affordability of agricultural information continue to be a major impediment for raising agricultural productivity among smallholder rice farmers in Ghana.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Unreliable production and marketing arrangements have contributed to the situation where demand for rice outstrips supply due to population increase and improved standard of living for smallholder rice farmers at the base of the pyramid. Ghana has attractive attributes for commercial farming, with large tracts of land available with excellent soil and climate suitable for the production of many crops. Lake Volta, the world’s largest man-made lake, is fed by an extensive system of rivers.. Together, Ghana’s vast resources of agricultural land with plentiful water for irrigation and available labor make it ideal for commercial farming of a key staple crop such as rice. Rice is Ghana’s number two staple crop and domestic demand for this is growing. Between 2010 and 2015, rice demand is projected to grow at a compound annual growth of 11.8 percent. Ghana’s average rice production stands at 300,000 MT and increasing. Since November, 2010, our venture has been actively engaged through collaborative support from the Millenium Development Authority (MiDA) project and the Alliance for Green Revolution (AGRA) funded Farmer-To-Market (FTM) project.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Most agricultural developments projects in Ghana traditionally address the supply-side and usually focus on crop productivity issues (increased use of improve seeds, fertilizers and improved agronomic practices). Few address the demand or marketing side that ensures that the increased production find its way to the markets without adverse effects on prices and incomes of farmers and other stakeholders in the value chain. It is a truism that smallholder rice farmers in Ghana do not have value for their produce as a result of unfavourable pricing regime and unavailability of markets. Our market orientation is an open one and our intervention is an innovative approach to create ready-market for rice produced in Ghana and in the West African Sub-region. Our business support is specific to addressing the marketing problems through facilitating an online web (internet) and real-time data intervention. Our value addition to finding market for rice from Ghana is unique due to the fact that we integrate the GIS technology into our market information system. The GIS technology will provide a means to spatially determine features about the rice farmers and their production types, the cost incurred by the farmers in transporting their farm produce to the marketing centres during harvest periods. Our MIS platform leverages on the esoko market information networks to provide an effective way for farmers to reach a wider trading environment and in addition, to commercial buyers and processors. This will in the long run improve their income levels and higher productivity.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The primary goal of our project is to ease the flow of rice produce from the farm-gate to the market by introducing technologically innovative market information systems to link smallholder farmers to individuals and or commercial buyers and processors. Our project strategically seeks to serve as a market information (MIS) platform and a one-stop Quality Control Information (QCI) Portal. During the outreach phase of our project implementation, we identify and create database of all participating smallholder rice farmers (pilot stage in Volta Region of Ghana). This we do through utilizing the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for surveying and mapping of the smallholder rice farmers. This enables us to obtain their specific production profiles and spatial distribution in the country. These databases and profiles are then migrated onto our webpage on the market information system platform to better link and manage suppliers, buyers, transporters and other stakeholders in the rice value chain. We also facilitate the use of the cellphone-based electronic platform to enable our participating rice farmers receive offers to sell their products, trade and market information, and receive market intelligence and business advisory information. Commodity storage is facilitated as well to link farmers to markets through broadcasting of market information about the stored rice produce, including quantities available, grades and prices. It is expected that availability of such information on bulk produce will reduce transaction costs for both farmer and trader and will improve upon marketing efficiency. Monitoring and Evaluation-Our Business Support Service develops a performance framework of outcomes, indicators, baseline data and targets to monitor activity result and measure social impacts on our beneficiaries.
About You
Organization:
Syecomp Business Services
About You
First Name

Solomon Elorm

Last Name

Allavi

About Your Organization
Organization Name

Syecomp Business Services

Organization Country

, VO

Country where this project is creating social impact

, VO

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

Innovation
What stage is your project in?

Operating for less than a year

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

Solomon Elorm Allavi is a Computer Science and Statistics graduate of the University of Ghana, Legon. An IT-savvy person, he is the Chief Operations Manager of Syecomp Business Services, a fledgling enterprise and a member-entrepreneur of the Enablis Entrepreneurial Network, Ghana. He has a professional working background in implementing varied donor-funded agricultural projects in Ghana and in the West African sub-region as an Information Technology (IT) officer specialised in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) surveying and mapping.
Solomon believes information technology propels enterprises and its implementation in Agriculture, especially in the area of market information systems (MIS), is the way-forward to provide a secure and efficient leeway for our farmers at the base of the pyramid.
He thus developed a business model whereas IT applications (MIS) could be integrated with other technologies such as the Geographic Informations Systems (GIS) to create a dynamic online MIS platform. Added to this is his vision and focus to create a one-stop Quality Control Information (QCI) portal for smallholder rice farmers in Ghana to help them meet international certification requirements and standards.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

Our project will in the long run improve farmers’ low and variable income from agriculture through addressing limited access to reliable marketing outlets to sell produce at advantageous prices. As social entrepreneurs, the company identifies the localized needs of rice farmers who are highly disadvantaged socially and economically. The company’s approach is to work collaboratively with already established smallholder rice farmer associations estimated at 250,000 individual rice farmers (approximately 15,600 farmer associations nationwide) and build technical partnership with the Millennium Development Authority (MiDA) and the Alliance for Green Revolution (AGRA) funded Farmer-To-Market (FTM) project.

So far, well over 700 individual rice farmers representing 65 smallholder rice farmer groups have been profiled for the use of the market information platform in the Volta Region. The project has been well received by potential beneficiaries with indicative field reports of increased comfort and security and enhanced employment opportunities for our rice farmers.

Our model will enable rice farmers to plan their finances well and focus more on increasing production. In addition, the issues associated with looking for buyers for their produce will no more be a hindrance, since with our GIS and MIS technologies, traditional market processes would give way to online dynamic processes; reaching out to potential buyers from different parts of the country and beyond. This business model could as well be scaled up and replicated on other food commodities as well and in other countries.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

101-1,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

More than 10,000

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

Over the next three years, our project will be scaled up to reach the targeted 250,000 rice farmers (15,600 smallholder rice farmer associations) in the country. This is achievable since the project will establish a strong technical and financial partnership with major stakeholders in Agriculture in Ghana:
 Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA),
 the International Center for Soil Fertility and Agricultural Development (IFDC)
 Apex Farmers Organisation of Ghana (APFOG) and the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG).
Within the next three years, other commodities such as maize, and tomatoes will be piloted and replicated with this model to advance the market operations of our smallholder farmers, create a reliable market and improve their income and well-being.

Sustainability
What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

Barriers identified to hinder our project implementation include:
- Low level of appreciation of the use of technology (ICT) by rice farmers in Ghana
- Decrease financial strength to enable company expand the reach of the project to all parts of Ghana and beyond
-Capacity of the farmers is not build around using ICT to seek market expansion at competitive prices. In addition, rice farmers do not have access to ready market price information.

To address these bottlenecks, we intend to intensify education and develop strategies to expand the reach of our MIS platform to all rice farmer organizations. Further to this, we are building strong partnerships with Agricultural Extension Officers of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and leverage on our collaboration with the Apex Farmers’ Organisation of Ghana (APFOG) to educate rice farmers on the benefits of using our platform to reach a larger trading environment. On the issue of capital strength, we are seeking venture financing through equity from the Venture Capital Institutions and Angel Investors in the country to boost our finances to expand the reach of our project effectively. Added to this, the company continues to generate income from GIS survey and mapping services for farmers, corporate institutions and landowners.

Tell us about your partnerships

Our business has form alliances with partners to build the organisational management, productivity and entrepreneurial skills of the smallholder rice farmers who will use our platform to market their produce. We are partnering the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), District Agricultural Extension Officers, Millennium Challenge Authority (MCA), the International Centre for Soil Fertility & Agricultural Development (IFDC) and the Ghana Agricultural Associations Business & Information Centre (GAABIC). This partnership will in the long run enhance our operational efficiencies through expanding our business networks and linkages to unreached areas in the Agricultural sector.
Our project receives technical support and advise from the IntEnt Ghana Foundation through their incubator facility. In addition, our strategic collaboration with the esoko market information network of Busylab is to enable us leverage on their platform to implement our venture successfully.

Explain your selections

Foundation: Our project is receiving technical support and advise from the IntEnt Ghana Foundation through their incubator facility

NGOs: Through strategic collaboration with the Apex Farmers Organisation of Ghana (APFOG), the International Centre for Soil Fertility and Agricultural Development (IFDC) and the Ghana Agricultural Associations Business and Information Center (GAABIC), we are able to obtain an initial baseline data of smallholder rice farmers in the country and our project is yielding the desired results.

Businesses: Through recently receiving debt financing (loan) support from the UT Bank Ghana, the company is poised to run the project to successful completion

Individuals: since the inception of the project in the late 2010, the project team has been contributing their own resources and finances toward the project implementation.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

The project seeks to strengthen the capacities of smallholder rice farmers to ensure that they act as catalysts for cost-effective and reliable supply chain that provides consistently, greater volumes of product, thereby improving revenues at farm, broker, exporter and processor levels along the value chain. This we seek to undertake through
i. providing a strategic and open marketing platform for all stakeholders to operate efficiently.
ii. Reducing the transaction costs through collective action and increased linkages with buyers
iii. Increasing the profit margins of our clients through providing business services and aggregating quality produce for buyers.
Our project is placing a ten per cent professional charge on all services whenever we get a buyer to make purchase over our MIS platform. This will enable us keep the project running and expand the scope of our activities to other regions and to other food commodities
Over the next 3 years, our project will seek to build strong collaborations and expand our networks to most stakeholders in the Agriculture sector such as the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, the International Center for Soil Fertility and Agricultural Development (IFDC), and Apex Farmers Organisation of Ghana (APFOG) in order to effectively realise our project objectives.

Challenges
Which barriers to employment does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.

PRIMARY

Lack of access to information and networks

SECONDARY

Lack of visibility and investment

TERTIARY

Restricted access to new markets

Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

Lack of access to information and networks: The project is striving to strengthen the capacities of smallholder rice farmers to ensure that they act as catalysts for cost-effective and reliable supply chain that provides consistently, greater volumes of product, thereby improving revenues at farm, broker, exporter and processor levels along the value chain.

Lack of visibility and investment; Restricted Access to new markets: the project aims at providing spatial decision support through linking rice farmers to markets in Ghana and beyond. As a result, we are providing a Quality Control Information (QCI) portal on rice production in Ghana in order to meet international certification and standards as required for Ghana rice produce.

Are you trying to scale your organization or initiative?
If yes, please check up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.

PRIMARY

Enhanced existing impact through addition of complementary services

SECONDARY

Leveraged technology

TERTIARY

Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

We believe there are important linkages and synergies that exist between the development of ICTs and information sharing that can support the livelihoods of a large cross-section of people involved in
agriculture and rural development. Thus the company is focused on using market informations systems (MIS) and provision of Quality Control Information (QCI) to provide service to rice farmers and other stakeholders.
Presently, the project is undertaking the Geographic Information Systems surveying and mapping for smallholder rice farmers’sites in the Volta Region of Ghana. After which the data will be migrated and profiled onto the MIS platform to link rice farmers to potential buyers worldwide.

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)

Technology providers, NGOs/Nonprofits, For profit companies.

If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

Technology Providers: Our project receives technical support and advise from the IntEnt Ghana Foundation incubator facility. In addition, we collaborate with esoko market information network of Busylab to leveage on their platform.

NGOs: Strategic collaboration with the Apex Farmers Organisation of Ghana (APFOG), the Ghana Agricultural Associations Business and Information Center (GAABIC), we are able to obtain an initial baseline data of smallholder rice farmers in the country and our project is yielding the desired results.

For profit companies: Debt financing (loan) support from UT Bank Ghana Ltd, is enabling us run the project.